Universal playability seems to be the goal of Volumio’s Open-Source Music Player (particularly since the release of Volumio 3.3 UNIVERSAL), so let’s take a look at a few essential streaming sources made available through third-party and open-source plugins that are available for the all-in-one music player.
Volumio’s support of third-party plugins has been a significant advantage compared to other freemium music server packages and puts it way ahead in terms of its willingness and ability to aggregate so many streaming options into a single application.
For me, these plugins are essential as they allow integrations within the Volumio software so that I don’t have to rely on Apple Airplay to stream tracks and albums from services like Bandcamp, YouTube, YouTube Music, Mixcloud, SoundCloud, and more.
A note about audio quality when streaming with Volumio Plugins
Audiophiles who require top-of-the-line streaming quality for their home systems might be disappointed to hear about the lower bitrate audio that is inherent to many of these Volumio plugin streams. You can expect to be locked into 128kbps – 160kbps in most cases, which is typical of livestreams and internet radio. That’s not necessarily a problem that Volumio can or should try to solve without an official integration or partnership.
Audiophiles can still enjoy Volumio’s support of nearly all audio file type (lossy to lossless) including MP3, AAC, FLAC, AIFF, WAV, and DSD when streaming from their own curated music library. This means that your own carefully cultivated archive of digital music can be streamed through your Volumio endpoint reliably and you won’t be restricted to the available quality of various streaming audio platforms.
Bandcamp Discover for Volumio Plugin integration
Thanks to the work of plugin developer @patrickkfkan) I’m able to browse and stream from my Bandcamp collection through the Volumio UI. I can also browse and listen to tracks and albums that I haven’t yet purchased and easily click through to the Bandcamp website to spend some cash if I’m inspired to do so.
I find myself waffling a bit between Volumio’s Manifest UI and the Contemporary UI when using this plugin. The actual content of Bandcamp’s daily posts feed will not be presented in the app if you’re using the Manifest UI theme.
Much of the fun in listening to these curated playlists is reading the commentary by the curator. Without that context it’s a little bit like seeing a stack of records that someone bought for a “What’s in my Bag” segment, but not knowing who bought the records, or why.
According to the Bandcamp Discover plugin changelog this omission of content is noted as “article texts will be hidden as they will not display nicely in Manifest UI’s page anchors”, so it may be a problem that the plugin developer can’t solve without some collaboration from the Volumio team.
Soundcloud for Volumio Plugin integration
Soundcloud is a great source for streaming archived DJ mixes and unreleased music. Whether it’s to stream obscure recordings from Solid Steel radio, or check in with what’s happening at NTS.
Searching for a specific set or track will return a lot of results if you don’t know exactly what you’re looking for. As far as I can tell there’s no way to sign into your Soundcloud account (this would be my first feature request for the Soundcloud plugin), but you can add your Soundcloud discoveries to a collection within Volumio for quicker access.
Mixcloud for Volumio Plugin integration
The Mixcloud plugin for Volumio is not dramatically different than the Soundcloud plugin and I use it for the same purpose; obscure DJ mixes and archived radio programming like archived mixes from Gilles Peterson’s Worldwide FM on Mixcloud.
Once again the settings are minimal and there is no option to sign into your Mixcloud account, so you’ll need to rely on Volumio’s built-in “favorites” categories to keep track of sets that you want to re-visit.
YouTube Music for Volumio Plugin integration
The YouTube Music plugin has been a mini-revelation as it’s not a service I’ve been previously interested in, but now I find that it’s a reliable source of some semi-obscure electronic music albums, high-quality amateur DJ mixes, and vinyl rips of albums and tracks that have not yet been “officially” digitized.
There is an option to sign into your existing YouTube Music account here, but as I don’t have or need an official YouTube Music account I haven’t tested that feature. All music from YouTube Music streams to my Volumio endpoint ad-free 🎉
YouTube2 Plugin for Volumio
YouTube2 is a bit more advanced than the YouTube Music plugin in that it allows you to customize the plugin feed page by creating sections and populating them using keyword search.
Create a new section and enter one or more keywords as search terms, give the keyword search a name, pick a search type (Channels, Playlists, or Videos) and voilà; you should now have a section added to the YouTube2 plugin home feed to match your parameters. Create multiple feeds and fill your YouTube2 plugin page with content that you’re actually interested in.
It’s an awkward but semi-functional way to customize the plugin feed. The top items in each feed don’t seem to update very often and, like many things in Volumio, the UI often doesn’t clearly communicate functionality or provide clear user feedback. You’ll need to have a little faith that the changes you’re making are actually being saved.
YouTube2 will also let you choose the Data Retrieval method for the content, so if you prefer to use Google’s YouTube API rather than a simple content scraping method you have that option.
Podcasts for Volumio plugin
Listening to podcasts has become fully mainstream at this point. Any music or audio aggregator software should have a Podcast feed integration of some kind, and this service is solved for Volumio with a plugin by @ChrisPanda
Unfortunately you can’t search for Podcasts or Podcast episodes in your feed using the Volumio search field. This means that if you’re looking for a specific topic or episode of one of your subscribed Podcasts, you’ll need to browse. The lack of search-ability seems like a significant oversight here, but if you only have a handful of Podcasts that you listen to regularly (and you’re not constantly browsing for new Podcast discoveries) this is a passable way to integrate your Podcast subscriptions into your Volumio endpoint.
Adding and removing Podcasts feed subscriptions requires going to the Podcast settings and searching or subscribing via RSS link.
Fusion DSP plugin for Volumio
The Fusion DSP plugin offers some audio enhancements otherwise missing from the native Volumio settings. This audio pick-me-up includes choices between:
- A 15 bands graphic equalizer
- 2x15 bands graphic equalizer
- A Parametric equalizer
You’re also able to choose from a variety of built-in preset configurations, and you’ll have the ability to customize and save up to 5 presets of your own design.
The Fusion DSP EQ is more subtle than I expected. Initially I wasn’t sure that it was working at all and I don’t think it replaces a good outboard tone-control unit, but having something built-in is a step in the right direction and the Fusion DSP plugin gets bonus points for making itself available in the output menu. You can easily switch between presets and saved settings without having to travel to the plugin settings page.
What about mobile and native app support for Volumio Plugins?
All the Volumio Plugins I’ve tested on desktop and mobile devices so far fit seamlessly into Volumio’s latest UI theme, Manifest. I haven’t spent as much time using them with the Classic or Contemporary themes.
If you haven’t set up your Volumio endpoint yet, I would recommend having a quick look at our guide to Install Volumio with a Raspberry Pi and Balena Etcher. Within that article you’ll find a step-by-step tutorial on how to begin using Volumio’s simple to install open-source music streamer.